Mastercard opens door for Strive EU Innovation Fund applications

January 23, 2024 | WATERLOO, BELGIUM

Mastercard has today opened the application window for its Strive EU Innovation Fund – a brand-new initiative aimed at accelerating the development of solutions to support European small businesses on their digital journey.

The Strive EU Innovation Fund will provide up to 20 projects from EU member states with equity-free grants of up to €500,000, as well as any technical assistance and mentoring they may need to accelerate the development of their solutions.

Applications are open to entities of all sizes – from startups to those that are more established – provided they are soliciting innovation that helps Europe’s small business community to:

1. Unlock working capital and credit through embedded finance;

2. Go digital safely by bolstering cybersecurity;

3. Navigate evolving consumer preferences & regulatory expectations around environmental sustainability;

4. Harness artificial intelligence to save time and make money.    

“Small businesses are the backbone of the European economy and – now more than ever – it is critical that they receive the support they need to join the digital economy,” said Mark Barnett, president of Mastercard Europe. “We are excited to open the application window for the Strive EU Innovation Fund and to hear about some of the best projects coming from Europe’s most innovative minds over the coming months.”

Evolving Strive in Europe

The Innovation Fund is the latest development of Mastercard’s global Strive programme – and the first dedicated activity for Strive EU, which was launched in November in the European Parliament last year and will be implemented by Caribou Digital.

Initially launched in 2021 – and supported by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth – Strive is a portfolio of philanthropic programmes aimed at supporting more than 10 million small businesses around the world to thrive in the digital economy.

Through Strive EU, Mastercard aims to further boost the resilience and growth of Europe’s small business community by supporting new innovations across the EU that help small businesses get capital, go digital, and gain networks and know-how. 

Strive EU will build on the strengths of two country-specific initiatives in Europe, Strive Czechia and Strive UK. Since launching in 2021, Strive UK has reached over 1M entrepreneurs, connecting them to resources, training, and mentors to help them navigate the digital economy. Strive Czechia is working to rapidly grow local stakeholder capacities, reaching MSEs across the country with new service lines, including peer shadowing and technical assistance, with the goal of reaching over 250,000 MSEs.

"Digital advances have the potential to serve as a bridge to ensure that everyone, particularly small businesses that power our economies, has the tools to grow and build their businesses and remain resilient. We look forward to taking our learnings from our Strive programmes so far and extending our reach and scale across Europe," said Payal Dalal, senior vice president of social impact, International Markets, at the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

Supported by the Strive EU Small Business Council

In addition to the Innovation Fund, Mastercard will establish a Strive EU Small Business Council to convene the European entrepreneurial ecosystem and encourage collaboration. Chaired by Mark Barnett, the Council will comprise 10-15 influential experts, private sector entities and small business representatives, who will be announced in early February.    

The Strive EU Small Business Council will play a key role in selecting the final recipients of the Innovation Fund, as well as supporting winners with in-kind and financial resources including mentorship throughout the course of the initiative.

For more information on how to apply for the Strive EU Innovation Fund, please visit The application window will be open until March 11, 2024, 12 noon CET. Judging will take place in June and final grantees will be announced in November 2024.

Media Contacts

About the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth

The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth advances equitable and sustainable economic growth and financial inclusion around the world. The Center leverages the company’s core assets and competencies, including data insights, expertise, and technology, while administering the philanthropic Mastercard Impact Fund, to produce independent research, scale global programs, and empower a community of thinkers, leaders, and doers on the front lines of inclusive growth. For more information and to receive its latest insights, follow the Center on LinkedInInstagram and subscribe to its newsletter.


About Caribou Digital

Caribou Digital delivers fund management, learning partnerships, and research, advisory, and measurement services, supporting organizations worldwide to build more inclusive and ethical digital economies.

About Mastercard (NYSE: MA)

Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Our mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments and businesses realize their greatest potential. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, we are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.  

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